Cartwright (1995) - Ceteris Paribus Laws and Socio-Economic Machines

See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: Ceteris Paribus Laws and Socio-Economic Machines Article in The Monist · January 1995 DOI: 10.5840/monist19957831 CITATIONS 58 READS 176 1 author: Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects: Knowledge for Use - K4U (ERC funded research project) View project Making the most of the evidence View project Nancy Cartwright Durham University 216 PUBLICATIONS 10,791 CITATIONS SEE PROFILE All content following this page was uploaded by Nancy Cartwright on 09 November 2015. The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.
Hegeler Institute "Ceteris Paribus" Laws and Socio-Economic Machines Author(s): Nancy Cartwright Source: The Monist, Vol. 78, No. 3, The Metaphysics of Economics (JULY 1995), pp. 276-294 Published by: Hegeler Institute Stable URL: . Accessed: 29/07/2014 10:31 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]. . Hegeler Institute is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Monist. This content downloaded from on Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:31:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Ceteris Paribus Laws and socio-economic machines* 1. Why economics is not allowed ceteris paribus laws Economics differs from physics, we are told, in that the laws eco nomics studies hold only ceteris paribus whereas those of physics are supposed to obtain universally and without condition.1 Does this point to a metaphysical difference between the laws the two disciplines study or does it reflect merely a deficiency in the level of accomplishment of economics as compared to physics? The conventional regularity account of laws tells us it must be the latter. On this account a theoretical law is a statement of some kind of regular association,2 usually supposed to hold "by necessity." The idea of necessity is notoriously problematic. Within the kind of empiricist philos ophy that motivates the regularity account it is difficult to explain what constitutes the difference between law-like regularities and those that hold only by accident, "nonsense" correlations that cannot be relied on. I shall not be concerned with necessity here; I want to focus on the associations themselves. These can be either universal, inwhich case the law is deter ministic, or they may be merely probabilistic. The regularity account is grounded in a version of empiricism that traces back to the philosophy of David Hume. Empiricism puts severe restrictions on the kinds of proper ties that appear in Nature's laws, or at least on the kinds of properties that can be referred to in the law-statements we write down in our theories. These must be observable or measurable? It also restricts the kinds of facts we can learn: the only claims about these quantities that are admis sible into the domain of science are facts about patterns of their co-occurence. Hence the specification of either an equation (in the case of determinism) or of a probability distribution over a set of measurable quantities becomes the paradigm for a Law of Nature. "Ceteris Paribus Laws and Socio-Economic Machines" by Nancy Cartwright, The Monist, vol. 78, no. 3, pp. 276-294. Copyright? 1995, THE MONIST, La Salle, Illinois 61301. This content downloaded from on Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:31:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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